Book chapter

The English School: History and Primary Institutions as Empirical IR Theory? (2017)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

How does the English School work as part of Empirical International Relations (IR) theory? The English School depends heavily on historical accounts, and this article makes the case that history and theory should be seen as co-constitutive rather than as separate enterprises. Empirical IR theorists need to think about their own relationship to this question and clarify what "historical sensitivity" means to them. The English School offers both distinctive taxonomies for understanding the structure of international society, and an empirically constructed historical approach to identifying the primary institutions that define international society. If Empirical IR is open to historical-interpretive accounts, then its links to the English School are in part strong, because English School structural accounts would qualify; they are, in other ways, weak because the normative theory part of the English School would not qualify. Lying behind this judgement is a deeper issue: if Empirical IR theory confines itself to regularity-deterministic causal accounts, then there can be no links to English School work. Undertaking English School insights will help open up a wider view of Empirical IR theory.